AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (15) **** DIRECTED BY: MATT HARLOCK, PAUL THOMAS
A ROCK star in the UK but anonymous in the United States, firebrand stand-up comic Bill Hicks died of pancreatic cancer before his scabrous, libertarian and increasingly philosophical brand of humour could crack the mainstream in his home country. This documentary aims to redress that, not so much by having contemporary experts endlessly contextualise and pontificate about why he was ignored, but by presenting instead a valuable and entertaining primary resource for fans and casual viewers alike, one that reminds us how brilliant, profound and ahead of his time he was.
Animating unseen photos and mixing them in with performance footage, British directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas have gathered together the handful of people who knew Hicks best to tell his story in moving and insightful ways.
It's a strategy that some may find limiting (there's no mention of his rivalry with Dennis Leary, for instance), but it's also a less clich-ridden approach, so that even while the tone is generally reverential, it cuts through some the tortured artist myths that have grown up around him to leave us with a moving portrait of a man with plenty to say tragically running out of time to say it.